Entertainment

'The Patty Duke Show': The Story Behind The Classic '60s Sitcom

Patty Duke led quite an interesting life growing up as a young child star in Hollywood. Despite coming from a difficult home and ultimately being raised by her talent managers, Duke made a name for herself early on when she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. Her new fame brought about numerous opportunities professionally including her own TV series created for her especially by Sidney Sheldon. 

ABC knew they wanted Duke to star in her own show on their network, but had no idea what the show would be about. Creator Sidney Sheldon had the young star come stay with his family for a week to brainstorm some ideas and during that time noticed that Duke had two sides to her personality. Later in life, Duke would open up about her bipolar diagnosis, but it wasn't public knowledge back in 1963 when the show started airing. So, The Patty Duke Show was centered around two identical cousins who were both played by Duke -- the typical American teenager Patty Lane and her Scottish cousin -- the prim and proper opposite, Cathy Lane. 

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Patty Lane lives in the Brooklyn Heights area of New York City with her "Poppo" Martin Lane (William Schallert), mother Natalie Lane (Jean Byron), brother Ross Lane (Paul O'Keefe), and of course her cousin Cathy. Schallert also played a dual role as his brother from Scotland, Kenneth, who also works with him at the New York Daily Chronicle. Eddie Applegate co-starred as Patty's boyfriend, Richard Harrison. The sitcom about the two high school girls made Patty Duke a teen star and even showed off the impressive special effects used to create her dual characters which were definitely not the norm in the 60s. 

Even the theme song was incredibly popular at the time, capitalizing on the differences between the two teens -- "...where Cathy adores the minuet, the Ballet Russe and crêpes Suzette, our Patty loves to rock 'n' roll, a hot dog makes her lose control..." Unfortunately, the Lane family was taken off the air mostly because Patty Duke turned 18. As crazy as that sounds, it's true. 

During filming for the 1964-1965 season, Duke turned 18, which meant she was legally able to work longer hours on set and was no longer protected by child labor laws. ABC wanted to move production out to Los Angeles and Duke refused. She didn't want to move and didn't want to fly back and forth every day which would have been a difficult commute. Duke was also in the middle of trying to leave her longtime managers and guardians, who had provided an incredibly toxic upbringing for her. It was bad timing all around. In the end, the network just decided to ax the beloved series.

Despite only airing for three seasons, viewers continued to love The Patty Duke Show reruns for years, so much so that CBS even aired an anniversary TV film, The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' In Brooklyn Heights in 1999. Duke, Schallert and Byron all came back to play their respective characters and this time Patty and Cathy each had children of their own. The majority of the cast even reunited again in 2009 in a series of PSAs for the Social Security Administration, targeted at Baby Boomers who group up loving teenage Patty Duke. Though Duke continued appearing in projects well into adulthood including Valley of the Dolls, Me Natalie, Glee, and numerous Broadway productions, her short-lived sitcom will always be one of her most beloved roles.

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'The Patty Duke Show': The Story Behind The Classic '60s Sitcom